Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 7, 2010

SHOWDOWN THIS WEEK ON MURKOWSKI SCHEME.... The fate of climate/energy legislation in the Senate remains entirely unclear, but policymakers hoping to combat global warming have an alternate route.

As we talked about a few weeks ago, though it's not ideal, the Environmental Protection Agency can use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions. The White House would like to use this for leverage, telling Congress that if lawmakers don't take steps to deal with the problem, the administration will let the EPA use its regulatory authority. It's the White House giving lawmakers a choice: either you act or we will.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wants to create a third option: nobody acts and the problem just gets worse.

Murkowski has already demonstrated that her sympathies rest with oil companies, but her latest gambit is "a rarely-used procedural maneuver that enables Congress to overturn regulations set by the executive branch." In effect, Murkowski wants to block climate legislation on the Hill and prevent the EPA from having the authority to act.

This will come to a head on Thursday.

Murkowski plans to offer a resolution barring the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions. In other words, Murkowski plans to offer a resolution making it less likely we move away from fossil fuels, making it less likely we act to prevent a foreseeable catastrophe (in this case, global warming) from occurring, blocking regulators from doing their jobs, and disrupting one of our best opportunities to prevent climate change rather than scramble to respond after its incalculable effects rip through our atmosphere.

Murkowski says that her effort is much simpler than all that. "My decision to introduce this measure is rooted in a desire to see Congress -- not unelected bureaucrats -- lead the way in addressing climate change," she wrote.

What an odd thing to say. Murkowski doesn't want Congress to lead the way in addressing climate change. She doesn't want anyone addressing climate change. Her defense for this scheme is little more than a pathetic rationalization, intended to persuade people who aren't paying attention.

The Murkowski effort is generating a fair amount of pushback. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is going after the measure, as are progressive groups like Americans United for Change, which has labeled the proposal the "Murkowski Big Oil Bailout."

We'll see what happens on the Senate floor on Thursday, but keep in mind, the resolution cannot be filibustered -- if it gets 51 votes, it passes. The Alaskan senator would effectively need all of the Senate Republicans -- which may itself be tricky, since Snowe, Collins, and Brown are hesitant -- and 10 Senate Democrats. That may sound like too high a threshold, but Murkowski already has four Dems, and the senators from West Virginia and Virginia have not yet weighed in.

Steve Benen 2:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (11)

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Two questions, doesn't it need the house to go along and can't the Prez veto it? I guess I need a primer on this process.

Posted by: KK on June 7, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not always up to date on things, but haven't the activist judges on the Supreme Court already ruled (like, a couple years ago) that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon emissions? A Senate resolution can actually trump the Supreme Court?

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on June 7, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

We already know that big business and especially big oil, lines the pockets of Congress. Now they are proving it as if the Gulf oil spill hasn't already.

Posted by: Schtick on June 7, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

I could have sworn that the Supreme Court decided that carbon emissions are, in fact, pollutants subject to the Clean Air Act. It was my impression that the EPA doesn't have a choice about regulating such emissions since they are bound to enforce the Clean Air Act. So I don't understand how Congress can overturn regulations when doing so would undermine its own legislation and contradict the Supreme Court ruling.

Posted by: Chris on June 7, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sure seems that way...

Posted by: KK on June 7, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

That makes about as much sense as republicans passing a resolution that the President can't do anything.

Posted by: Patrick on June 7, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

KK you're right. It must pass both the House and the Senate -- and the President can veto it.

Chris, the Suprimes did rule that the EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate pollution. What Senate will vote on is a bill that would prevent the EPA -- preemptively I think -- from promulgating any carbon emission regulations. Strange as this may seem actually promulgating regulations is seperate from having authority to regulate.

Posted by: DavidI on June 7, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

How much do you want to bet corporatate corrupted,oil corrupted congress will agree with Murkowski. Money rules Americans who voted don't.

Posted by: mljohnston on June 7, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Lets pass evrerything by 51 votes in the Senate... If it passes, it passes.. Lets see where Dems REALLY stand on all sorts of issues.

Posted by: gdb on June 7, 2010 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

How 'bout we dissolve the Senate since the small wingnut states with no population (like ALASKA) get too much influence to bottle up any progress.

Posted by: stevieb on June 7, 2010 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

I demand that Congress take up the important issue of highway safety!

Only Congress should provide driver examinations, not the DMV.

Why do we have unelected bureaucrats deciding who has the right to drive?

Posted by: jamie_2002 on June 8, 2010 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK



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